Matthew 20:20
Then came to him the mother of Zebedees children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children.—The state of feeling described in the previous Note supplies the only explanation of a request so strange. The mother of James and John (we find on comparing Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40, that her name was Salome) was among those who “thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear” (Luke 19:11); and probably the words so recently spoken, which promised that the Twelve should sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28) had fastened on her thoughts, as on those of her sons, to the exclusion of those which spoke of suffering and death. And so, little mindful of the teaching of the parable they had just heard, they too expected that they should receive more than others, and sought (not, it may be, without some jealousy of Peter) that they might be nearest to their Lord in that “regeneration” which seemed to them so near. The mother came to ask for her sons what they shrank from asking for themselves, and did so with the act of homage (“worshipping Him”) which implied that she was speaking to a King.

Matthew 20:20-23. Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children — Instigated, it seems, by them. See Mark 10:35. With her sons — James and John; worshipping him — That is, falling down before him; and desiring a certain thing of him, &c. — Considering what he had just been speaking, was ever any thing more unseasonable? See also chap. Matthew 18:1; Mark 9:34; where a similar spirit of ambition manifested itself among the disciples on a similar occasion, Christ having then also just foretold his sufferings. Grant that these my two sons may sit, &c., in thy kingdom — Still they expected a temporal kingdom. Jesus answered, Ye know not what ye ask — Ye are not aware what is implied in being advanced in my kingdom, and what is necessarily prerequired in order thereto. All who share in my kingdom must first share in my sufferings. Are you able and willing to do this? Both the expressions here used, the cup and the baptism, are to be understood of his sufferings and death. The like expressions were common among the Jews. They say unto him, We are able — Not knowing, it appears, what they said. And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup — “Accordingly it is observable, that this James was the first of all the apostates who suffered martyrdom for Christ, Acts 12:2; and John was scourged by the Jews, Acts 5:40; and afterward banished by Domitian into the isle of Patmos, where he speaks of himself as a companion in Christ’s tribulation: (Revelation 1:9 :) not to mention Tertullian’s tradition, that at Rome he was plunged into boiling oil; by which, it is said, instead of being destroyed, he was sensibly refreshed; nor what the pretended Prochorus says of the attempts made by some heretics to poison him, which is generally referred to in the pictures of this apostle, where the venom is ridiculously represented as coming out of the cup, in the form of a serpent, to signify, that the poison did not take effect.” — Doddridge. To sit on my right hand, &c., is not mine to give; but it shall be given, &c. — These words, but it shall be given, are not in the original, but are supplied, and that unnecessarily, by our translators. The original words, ουκ εστιν εμον δουναι, αλλοις ητοιμασται, should be rendered, It is not mine to give, unless to them for whom it is prepared of my Father; αλλα being here put for ει μη, as it is also Mark 9:8. That is, I can give the chief places in my kingdom to none but to those who, according to the immutable laws of my Father, are capable of occupying them. He applies to the glories of heaven what his disciples were so stupid as to understand of the glories of earth: but he does not deny that these are his to give. They are his to give in the strictest propriety, both as God, and as the Son of man. See John 10:28; Luke 22:29. He only asserts, that he gives them to none but those for whom they are originally prepared, namely, these glories, to those who endure to the end in the faith that worketh by love, and the chief places to them who are most eminent for their graces, according to the unalterable laws of the divine administration.20:20-28 The sons of Zebedee abused what Christ said to comfort the disciples. Some cannot have comforts but they turn them to a wrong purpose. Pride is a sin that most easily besets us; it is sinful ambition to outdo others in pomp and grandeur. To put down the vanity and ambition of their request, Christ leads them to the thoughts of their sufferings. It is a bitter cup that is to be drunk of; a cup of trembling, but not the cup of the wicked. It is but a cup, it is but a draught, bitter perhaps, but soon emptied; it is a cup in the hand of a Father, Joh 18:11. Baptism is an ordinance by which we are joined to the Lord in covenant and communion; and so is suffering for Christ, Eze 20:37; Isa 48:10. Baptism is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace; and so is suffering for Christ, for unto us it is given, Php 1:29. But they knew not what Christ's cup was, nor what his baptism. Those are commonly most confident, who are least acquainted with the cross. Nothing makes more mischief among brethren, than desire of greatness. And we never find Christ's disciples quarrelling, but something of this was at the bottom of it. That man who labours most diligently, and suffers most patiently, seeking to do good to his brethren, and to promote the salvation of souls, most resembles Christ, and will be most honoured by him to all eternity. Our Lord speaks of his death in the terms applied to the sacrifices of old. It is a sacrifice for the sins of men, and is that true and substantial sacrifice, which those of the law faintly and imperfectly represented. It was a ransom for many, enough for all, working upon many; and, if for many, then the poor trembling soul may say, Why not for me?See also Mark 10:35-45.

Matthew 20:20

Then came to him give mother of Zebedee's children ... - This was probably Salome, Mark 15:40; Mark 16:1.

With her sons - The names of these sons were James and John, Mark 10:35

Mark says they came and made the request. That is, they made it, as appears from Matthew, through the medium of their mother; they requested her to ask it for them. It is not improbable that she was an ambitious woman, and was desirous to see her sons honored.

Worshipping him - Showing him respect; respectfully saluting him. In the original, kneeling. See the notes at Matthew 8:2.

Mt 20:17-28. Third Explicit Announcement of His Approaching Sufferings, Death, and Resurrection—The Ambitious Request of James and John, and the Reply. ( = Mr 10:32-45; Lu 18:31-34).

For the exposition, see on [1331]Mr 10:32-45.

See Poole on "Matthew 20:21". Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children,.... Whose name was Salome, as may be concluded from Matthew 27:56 compared with Mark 15:40. She is not called the wife of Zebedee, who might be now dead, but the mother of his children, his two sons, as the Arabic version renders it: James and John, and who were the disciples of Christ: it is not certain, that Zebedee was ever a follower of him; and therefore the woman is described by her relation to her children, and not her husband; and the rather, because it was in their name, and on their account, that she came to Jesus. She is said to be the sister of Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of our Lord; and if so, might hope to succeed in her request, on the foot of relation; as also, since she herself had been a constant follower of, and attendant on him; and especially, inasmuch as her sons were his favourite disciples;

with her sons; her two sons, James and John, whom Mark mentions by name:

worshipping him,

and desiring a certain thing of him; that is, she came in a very submissive manner to him, either bowed unto him, or kneeled down before him, or threw herself at his feet, and signified that she had a single favour, and a very considerable one, to ask of him. Mark represents the case thus, that her two sons, James and John, came to Christ, and that they themselves spoke to him, and addressed him in this manner: "Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us, whatsoever we shall desire": which was a very odd request, both as to the matter and manner of it; that they should ask; and insist upon everything to be done for them, they desired; and suggest, that they expected that he would promise them this, before they declared the particular favour they had to ask of him. The matter may be reconciled thus. These two disciples, having observed what Christ had said concerning the twelve disciples sitting on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel, and what he had just related, concerning his rising again the third day, which they might understand of some display of his glory; and concluding from all this, that the setting up of his temporal monarchy was at hand, inform their mother of it, and move to her, to use her interest with Christ, in their favour: and which they did, partly to shun the envy and ill will of the rest of the disciples; and partly, to conceal their own pride and vanity; as also, they might think a request from her, on their behalf, would be more easily granted: accordingly, she agreeing to the motion, they all three came, as Matthew relates, and the mother is the mouth, and speaks for her sons; so that they may be said to make such a request by her, she representing them; or they joined in the petition with her; or as soon as she had made it, they seconded it, and made it their own.

{5} Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.

(5) The manner of the heavenly kingdom is quite contrary to the earthly kingdom.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 20:20. Τότε] after the announcement in Matthew 20:17-19. Salome, His mother’s sister (see note on John 19:25), was one of those women who were in the habit of accompanying Jesus, Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40; Mark 16:1. She may have heard from her sons what He, Matthew 19:28, had promised the apostles.

αἰτοῦσά τι] making a request. It is to anticipate to suppose τι to imply aliquid magni (Maldonatus, Fritzsche). Comp. Matthew 20:21, τί θέλεις. On the present participle, see Kühner, II. 2, p. 622 f.; Dissen, ad Pind. Ol. vii. 14; Bornem. ad Xen. Anal. vii. 7. 17.Matthew 20:20-28. The two sons of Zebedee (Mark 10:35-45).20. the mother of Zebedee’s children] Her name was Salome, as we learn by comparing Matthew 27:56 with Mark 15:40.

“Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children.” Matthew 27:56.

  “Among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome.” Mark 15:40.

worshipping him] The act of prostration before an Eastern King—though the word “crucify” might have suggested a slave’s death. The Kingdom of heaven introduces many such contrasts.

desiring a certain thing] She dares not speak until her Lord addresses her.

20–28. Salome’s Prayer for her sons, and the Answer of Jesus

Mark 10:35-41. St Mark begins “And James and John the sons of Zebedee came unto him, saying, &c.” For once St Matthew is more graphic and true to detail than St Mark.Matthew 20:20. Τότε, then) at a most inappropriate time.[886]—προσκυνοῦσα, worshipping) Him. From the adoration and discourse of this woman, it is evident that she entertained a high idea of our Lord’s majesty, but possessed very little knowledge.—τὶ, something) She asked for something, indefinitely, as they do who knew that a refusal would not be unjust; see 1 Kings 2:20.

[886] Ἡ μήτηρ) This thought seems to have entered the mind of the anxious mother altogether sooner than it did that of her sons: and even in her very supplication she acted the part of an intermediate agent or intercessor.—Harm., p. 433.Verses 20-28. - Ambitious request of the mother of the sons of Zebedee. (Mark 10:35-45.) Verse 20. - Then. The incident seems to have arisen from the promise of the twelve thrones in Matthew 19:28, and is significant as showing how utterly misunderstood was the true nature of the Messianic kingdom. The mother of Zebedee's children. The mother of James and John was named Salome (Matthew 27:56 compared with Mark 15:40; Mark 16:1); she had left her husband Zebedee (Mark 1:20) in Galilee (unless, as is more probable from the terms in which she is introduced, he was now dead), and followed Jesus in the band of holy women who attended on him and ministered to him of their substance. Some have thought that she was the sister of the Virgin Mary, so interpreting John 19:25. St. Mark makes the two apostles present their own request; and doubtless they put their mother forward, coming with her to the presence of Jesus, and using her agency in this somewhat delicate matter. Our evangelist was present on the occasion, and his precision may be relied on in this detail. Worshipping him. Making the customary prostration before a superior. A certain thing (τι). She did not at first make any definite request, but endeavoured to get Jesus to promise to grant her what she asked. According to St. Mark, the sons say plainly, "We would that thou shouldest do for us whatever we shall desire." Thus Bathsheba addressed David. "I desire one small petition of thee; I pray thee, say me not nay" (1 Kings 2:20). Salome is plainly intending to ask some great thing.
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